Monday, March 21, 2016

Turning the Page at DDS

No sooner had I sent my earlier post today than I learned a piece of late-breaking news that’s important to our whole community.  Today Laura Nuss announced she will leave her post as director of the Department on Disability Services in a short two weeks.  Here is the verbatim text of her announcement: 


I have been honored to serve in the Department on Disability Services for the past 8 and 1/2 years; first as the Deputy Director for DDA and then as of May, 2010 as the Director.  We have accomplished more than anyone could have imagined, and I am proud to have worked side by side with all of you to achieve this progress.  However there is a season for all things and spring is a time for change, which for me means  that I will be leaving DDS in the upcoming weeks. 

As you know, we are on the cusp of achieving final compliance with our last 5 exit criteria in the Evans v. Bowser class action after 40 years!  Regardless of the outcome of our Certifications of Compliance, our path forward is clear.  The new CMS requirements demand that all people with IDD receive services in an environment like people without disabilities, and, that we move aggressively forward on assisting people to gain employment and engage in learning in inclusive environments.  That will take all of DDS, other District agencies and our community partners to work together to make this goal a reality for all of the people we serve.  The District has a transition plan in progress and our provider community will need to take very seriously the changes that will need to be made in support of those CMS requirements.  I know DDS will be doing its’ part to ensure our continued success.

While I would have enjoyed being here especially when Judge Huvelle dropped the gavel on the Evans case, my tenure with DDS was about more than the Evans case.  I have always said "systems change" is not dependent upon one person.  It is about working together to support the development of a sustaining system of services, built on policies, rules, training, staff development, leadership, cross-agency collaboration,  funding, performance management systems, technology, customer service, commitment, teamwork and enthusiasm.  That sustainable system has been established, and now it simply must remember to follow the tenants of a learning organization and always strive to improve.

I have decided that my tenure with DDS has run its' course, and coupled with my family obligations I have decided resign my post as  Director of the Department on Disability Services, and accept another position that will allow me to continue my contributions to the field but with a bit more flexibility.   I know I have worked hard, am proud of what we have achieved, and will always be committed to the people of the District and the team at DDS.  I am confident that each one of you will also continue your commitment to serve the people of the District of Columbia.

My last day will be April 8, 2016.  I look forward to talking with many of you before then to personally thank you for all that you do and for making these last 8 plus years easily the most meaningful of my professional life.


Even though she correctly states that “ ‘systems change’ is not dependent upon one person,” anyone who listened to the Austermuhle broadcast last week knows how central she has been to the turnaround in D.C. disability services in recent years.  She has worked hard to get systems in place, and she has gotten some strong people in leadership positions around her.  One of them will surely step into her role on an acting basis, but the next move will be Mayor Bowser’s.  These are very big shoes to fill.

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